China launched their first space station almost exactly a year ago, and today they launched their first three-person crew to give it a try. This mission will be China's longest, at 15 days, and will include China's second female taikonaut. Sounds great, even if what they're visiting isn't really a space station.

I say it's not really a space station not because of any slight, but because Tiangong 1 is more accurately a prototype for a future resupply ship to serve China's planned later, larger space stations. That's actually much more impressive than if it was just a small, Salyut 1-type space station. Still, it's acting as a small space station right now, so that's certainly good enough for me, and it certainly fits all the basic space station criteria.


During the mission, the crew of Shenzou 10, Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, and Wang Yaping will have a number of objectives, but the biggest one will be continual throughout the mission: living in space for an extended period. As you can imagine, the ability to do this is a pretty big deal for all future spacefaring operations, so this is clearly the primary goal.

It's likely the Shenzou ferry craft will dock and undock a few times to get as much data as possible, in both automated and manual modes.

Good luck up there!